Friday, April 18, 2008

Speaking of Love by Angela young


I finished Angela Young's debut novel Speaking of Love last night, which is about a week too late to participate in the discussion over at the Cornflower Book Group. But, I'm glad I read it, anyway. I'll go back and look at the discussion about the book later. Angela Young's book has made the rounds of the blogging world and was actually in the running for the 2008 Spread the Word: Books to Talk About award. There were over 100 books voted on as part of the UK World Book Day celebration, and Speaking of Love made the Top Ten, which is pretty impressive. There's good reason that the book made it that far, and I know we have more to look forward to from Angela Young.

The book is told from the points of view of the three main characters -- Iris, Vivie, and Matthew. Normally, it's pretty rare for me to really enjoy a book told from multiple viewpoints. Inevitably, I'll love the voice of one of the characters and never really like the others. I'll find myself skimming quickly through those portions of the book to get back to the character that I actually care something about. In this case, Angela Young manages to fully flesh out all three characters. I came to care about all three and wanted to know how each of them felt. I never found myself hurrying through one character's chapter to get to the next. In fact, I don't think the book would have worked nearly as well having been told from only one point of view. That being said, I do think the first part of the book starts slowly. The author gives us tiny glimpses into the lives of each of the characters without filling in any of the details. At first, this was a little frustrating for me. I wanted to know NOW! Yes, I know I have a problem with patience. However, the author did a masterful job of giving the reader just the right amount of information. As the book continues, the pace seems to quicken as you begin to put the pieces together. By the third section of the book, the chapters even become shorter, which adds to the sense of building anticipation. It's hard to imagine when you start this book how everything will come together in the end. But, Young does an amazing job of tying up the loose ends and bringing the story together in an honest, realistic way.

O.K., now for the story, which is a little harder to describe without giving away too much. As I said, the three main characters are Iris, Vivie and Matthew. Iris is Vivie's mother, and Matthew is Vivie's childhood friend. There's a complicated set of circumstances, which all come together nicely in the end. However, it's a wee bit rough getting there. Iris loses her mother at an early age, and her father refuses to let her talk about her or mourn for her. Iris finds comfort in her books and the stories that her mother had told her. Iris becomes estranged from her father after meeting a poet and moving in with him. They have a child together -- Vivie. Circumstances begin to repeat themselves and Vivie becomes estranged from Iris. Matthew grew up next door to Vivie and is her best friend. He fell in love with her, but never tells her and she marries someone else. The book is about the power of love and how devastating it can be when the words, "I love you" are never spoken. The power of words and storytelling are also major themes in the book. Iris is a storyteller just as her mother was before her. Vivie's father, Kit, is a poet. Vivie works in a public relations firm writing copy for advertisements. The author separates the four sections of the book with a story that somehow relates to the book. The book also deals with another very serious subject, schizophrenia. The author delves into how mental illness affects the friends and family members of the person with the disease.

I really didn't want this one to end. Like I said earlier, it was a little slow to start with, but the author does this purposefully to build the tension and set the stage for what's to come. It wouldn't have been as powerful had she simply told the story in a straightforward manner. Instead she gives the reader pieces of the puzzle, small at first, to piece together. The more you read, the bigger the pieces get and the more you begin to understand the characters and the choices that they make. This one is highly recommended, and be on the look out because you will hear more from Angela Young.

10 comments:

Danielle said...

I don't think this would have been as effective either had the story been told by just one of the characters. I liked the way she built up to the climax and slowly revealed the story. There's so much to talk about in this book, I can easily see why it ended up in the top ten list for the spread the word award! Definitely a worthy read even if you finished after the discussion!

Lisa said...

danielle, didn't you just love it? Even though I was a little impatient at the beginning, she quickly sucked me in and I was hooked. She did a masterful job of storytelling.

Karen said...

Lisa, so glad you got there in the end (and there's never a time limit to adding to a discussion on a book at Cornflower!!). The more I think about Speaking of Love, the more I appreciate what Angela achieved in writing it and I think she did a superb job. I can't wait to see what she'll come up with next because this was far from being an 'ordinary' or run-of-the-mill novel. So glad you agree!

Lisa said...

karen, I did go to the Cornflower Book Group discussion site today and read all of the comments. It sounds like everyone liked this novel. I don't know why anyone wouldn't. She did such an amazing job weaving the stories together. I'm with you, I can't wait to see what she does next. Thanks for not rapping my knuckles with the ruler for being tardy. :)

Anil P said...

Haven't read it, will need to after reading your take on it.

Lisa said...

anil p, I hope you like it! I have thought about it quite often since finishing it, which is a sign to me that I'll probably read this one again at some point.

Angela Young said...

Thank you so much, Lisa (and all of you) for your enthusiastic comments about Speaking of Love.

And thank you Lisa for your thoughtful, perceptive review (and your succint summary of the story).

As I've said in my comment on your LibraryThing page it's so rare for a first novels to get reviews, so when they're as thoughtful and perceptive (let alone positive) as this one - and the others in the book-blogging world, including on Cornflower's Book Group - it is more encouraging than I can say as I work on (and struggle with) my next one (you're quite right there will will be a next one ... .

Thank you.

Lisa said...

angela, I was simply being honest. I loved the book and have found myself thinking about it and the characters from time to time since finishing it, which is a sure sign that it had a big impact on me. It's rare for me to reread a book, but I probably will reread this one at some point. In fact, immediately after finishing the book, I did go back and reread the first few chapters. I'm eagerly awaiting your next offering. :)

Literary Feline said...

I read your review of this book with great interest, Lisa. It sounds like something I would definitely like to read. Thanks for the great review!

Lisa said...

literary feline, It is definitely a great read. I still find myself thinking about it now, which is unusual for me. Even when I like a book, I usually don't remember it in great detail. This one is different.